John Major Jenkins
(The original working Introduction as of early 1996)
Charting time was a central concern of ancient Mesoamerican skywatchers. Many cultures in Mexico and Central America shared this common fascination, and were making detailed astronomical observations well over 2000 years ago. These groups included the Olmec, Zapotec and Aztec peoples, but especially the Maya. Closely related to Mesoamerican ideas about time is the concept of World Ages, which envisions distinct epochs in the history of the human race. Naturally, there was a great interest in when the next World Age shift would take place. According to the Mayan Long Count calendar, this much anticipated event occurs in 2012 A.D.
The premise of this book is that the astronomical basis of the World Age doctrine is a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes. In general, this is not a novel proposition, and was explored thoroughly in Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend's groundbreaking Hamlet's Mill (1969). However, Hamlet's Mill and other more recent books on the topic have focused on Old World traditions. The possibility that precession was understood in ancient Mesoamerica has received little attention, and little concrete evidence for it has yet been put forward. I have assembled my own research toward this end, and am prepared to demonstrate how precession was at the foundation of cosmological and calendric science in Mesoamerica.
Ever since Hamlet's Mill resurrected the idea that ancient astronomy and mythology were closely related, precession has been a recurring leit motif in many books insightfully reconstructing the esoteric facets of ancient knowledge. Jane B. Sellers' The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt (1992) carefully outlined a compelling argument that certain astronomical phenomena including the precession of the equinoxes were understood by ancient Egyptian skywatchers. The Orion Mystery burst onto the scene in 1994 and showed how one of the Great Pyramid's sight tubes (commonly called "air shafts") aligned with the stars of Orion's Belt in the era 2600 B.C. The authors, Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert, explained their realization that the Great Pyramid serves as a precessional star-clock, in that its orientation defines certain eras in the precessional cycle. A time some 12,500 years ago is indicated by the Great Pyramid as an era the early Egyptians were especially interested in. Although the authors do not mention it, 12,500 years ago identifies the last time a solstice sun coincided with the Milky Way. The next time this happens, and central to my World Age premise, is the Mayan calendar end-date in A.D. 2012. In The Orion Mystery Bauval also shares his discovery that the three main pyramids of Cheops mirror the three stars of Orion's Belt in relative size and orientation. As such, the Nile represents the Milky Way. This is a type of sky-earth hierophany that we also find in Mayan pyramids, which were cosmograms (images of the cosmos) in stone. In Fingerprints of the Gods (1995), sleuth-scholar Graham Hancock added to this by showing that the constellation Leo the Lion was rising on the vernal equinox at the "Zero Time" of 10,500 B.C. The importance here is that the Sphinx, now thought to date back much further than previously thought, faces the eastern skies. In other words, Hancock suggests that the Sphinx may have been built during the astrological age of Leo, which occurred around 10,500 B.C. This date supports Bauval's findings and, as Bauval himself mentions, recalls Edgar Cayce's channelled information about Atlantean cataclysm.
These writers have all focused on precession as a greatly unrecognized foundation-concept in the development of Old World religion and science. In compelling and original work published in the 1940s and 50s, much of it stemming from field observations, French researcher R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz defined Egypt as the great parent culture from which Old World wisdom emanated. In his book Sacred Science (1961 ), de Lubicz shares the data which helped him conclude that the ancient Egyptians were aware of the precession of the equinoxes. More recent authors have for the most part followed this lead.
The evidence for precessional knowledge in the Old World is substantial and covers a wide spectrum of myth, tradition, science and religion. Much of this evidence is ultimately deemed "circumstantial" by hard-core empiricists but, altogether, provides a strong case for a deep interest in the precession of the equinoxes going back beyond the dim origins of recorded history. Various types of alignments that wax and wane in the cycle of precession are what concerned the ancient astronomer-priests, and the Old World doctrine of twelve astrological ages was only one way of mapping this Great Cycle. My interest is in how the Great Cycle of the stars was mapped and calibrated among the ancient civilizations of the New World, specifically, in Mesoamerica.
In this book I will describe two different methods with which the ancient skywatchers of Mesoamerica marked alignments in the Great Cycle of precession. Naturally, becoming aware of this astronomical cycle gives rise to ideas about World Ages, eternally recurring celestial alignments with attendant transformations of cyclic renewal. Epigrapher, art historian, and Mayan scholar Linda Schele has shown in recent books that, as in the Old World, astronomy and mythology were closely related in Mesoamerica. Mayan creation mythology describes ages of time that typically end in cataclysm and transformation.
Eschatology has to do with the belief in temporal end-points or culmination as a historical process. In this sense, Mesoamerican cosmology is essentially eschatological. A deeper reading of Mesoamerican traditions, however, reveals that time ends only to begin anew. Thus, there are indeed end-times in Mesoamerican thinking, but, ultimately, time is cyclic. The period of transformation at the end-beginning nexus is unavoidably frought with a chaotic and apocalyptic spirit. This seems to describe our current age and, in fact, both of the Mesoamerican methods for tracking precession that we will explore point to our immediate future. It is greatly ironic, and perhaps indicative of something stranger going on, that these Mayan end-times happen to correspond with the millennial shift of the western Christian calendar.
The two precession-tracking methods of the Maya are very straightforward and are based upon the most studied and best known aspects of Mesoamerican cosmology and calendrics. One involves the end-date of the 13-Baktun cycle of the Mayan Long Count calendar, while the other involves the New Fire ceremony, the Sun, the Pleiades, and the Pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza. The evidence is overwhelming, but not readily recognized in academic circles. Why? Probably because the implications of what I present are beyond the scope of what scholars consider safe ground. However, and I must emphasize this, the evidence I present is not speculative or vague at all. I trust that even the most careful reader will find this to be true. I have synthesized information found primarily in academic sources, as my notes and bibliography attest. The conclusions I draw result from a careful and pointed course of study in Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy, calendrics, culture and cosmology. As we will see, the possibility that precession was understood by ancient New World astronomers has, in fact, been discussed by Mayanists, but commitment in looking for concrete methods has been either lagging or off the mark. Overall, the conclusion that precessional knowledge provides the astronomical basis of eschatological thought in Mesoamerica is certainly worthy of scientific study. In comparison, the astounding implications that unavoidably arise, which I will also address in this book (Chapter VI), probably belong more to a type of esoteric New World metaphysics than to "pure" science. In my opinion, both metaphysics and science must be used to interpret this material and do it justice. Consequently, we find that Mesoamerican genius partakes of the great universal wisdom recent writers have been decoding in the esoteric cosmologies of ancient Old World civilizations. De Santillana, von Dechend, Bauval and Gilbert, Sellers, Schwaller de Lubicz, John Anthony West, Graham Hancock and the Flem-Aths have all contributed to elucidating the Old World inflection of the Mystery of the Ages. And the New World evidence is just as striking, perhaps more so. These findings are, frankly, astounding, but I don't feel compelled to invoke Atlantean ghosts or extraterrestrials to explain any of this. At Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, we find a cosmic Pyramid-Myth defining a precessional alignment just as Bauval proposes for the Great Pyramid in Egypt. We also find that the Mayan Long Count calendar, which ends in 2012 A.D., highlights a precession-related alignment between the solstice Sun and the Milky Way. This is a no-nonsense calendric artifact that is more compelling than anything discussed in the Old World material. In other words, the two simple facts of the Long Count end-date and the concurrent galactic alignment are indisputable.
The methods for marking and tracking precession in Mesoamerica are different than those proposed for Old World cosmology,and sometimes involve concepts that are not readily appreciated by those geared to Old World thought patterns. For example, tropical astronomy must be understood to appreciate Mesoamerican cosmology, but is almost completely unnecessary for studying Egyptian star-knowledge. As pioneer archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni writes, "In ancient societies, the sky and its contents lay at the very foundation of human cognition" (1984:255), and:
"...judged by the Western cultural yardstick, astronomical systems developed by indigenous civilizations of the tropical latitudes are found to be both complex and fundamentally different from those originating in civilizations of the temperate latitudes. One explanation for this is the radically contrasting sky orientations that are viewed from different parts of the globe, a determinative environmental factor in the development of cosmological systems that should not be neglected..."
I hope that this book will open up new directions in the study of New World cosmology, and preserve for the appreciation of future generations the amazing genius of a civilization which we must humbly bow to and honor. We are just beginning to understand what they knew. The importance of the foundation-principle of this ancient cosmovision - the precession of the equinoxes - has no place in our short-sighted technocracy. Perhaps this will be our undoing.
We know about precession today, but, as the authors of Hamlet's Mill write, "The space-time continuum does not effect it. It is by now only a boring complication" (67). To the ancients it had the most profound of implications. Like saying that the moon is the same size as the sun - which sounds absurd to the modern mind but is, from the native understanding that the moon is Woman and the sun is Man, perfectly true - precession may be more relevant than we think. Perspective is such a relative thing, based on experience and observation.
For human beings on earth, the full moon and the sun do indeed appear to be the same size (literally and symbolically). Science claims to take a larger view, but scientific knowledge is limited by its materialistic criteria. It is not "larger" in the right way. Unfortunately, today we don't need the grand holistic perspective offered by ancient cosmology; our sights have been reduced to the task at hand. We are, literally, a very short-sighted culture. We don't need big news.
It is not the goal of this book to speculate so much on the "effects" of the upcoming alignments. I only hope to clearly establish that ancient New World cultures were much more sophisticated than we have been giving them credit for. More to the point, we should come away with a clear respect for the prominent role played by the precession of the equinoxes in ancient New World astronomy. And yet, underlying this whole discussion is my firm belief that precession is somehow related to the epic vicissitudes of the human journey, defining the ebb and flow of galactic seasons on a vast scale.
Much has been said of this, in the books mentioned above, and much more might be suggested. We can only hope that one day we may fully understand the overarching importance of this Great Year and the role it plays in the unfolding of human culture and in the evolution of consciousness.
At the dawn of agriculture in the Paleolithic, human beings began to understand the nature and potential of the yearly cycle. Their time-concept was enhanced, they planned for a future barely appreciated by their immediate ancestors, and the resultant effects on human culture were transformative.
The same might be said for us in regard to our understanding of the larger Galactic Season of precession; if we can enlarge our spacetime concept and appreciate the immanent potential of this Great Year, the future of the human race might be brighter than we can presently imagine. Suffice it to say that we are, in fact, living in the Mayan end-times, and something completely unprecedented does appear to be going on. This book is primarily concerned with showing that the ancient inhabitants of the New World were privy to a cosmological knowledge that we are just beginning to understand. Mayan Cosmogenesis 2012 is a "first reconnaissance" into this profound knowledge as it flowered in Mesoamerica. According to this ancient knowledge, a door into the heart of space and time opens in A.D. 2012. May we all take a step forward.
1. Linda Schele (1996) indirectly challenged a basic premise of my work, the position that the 13 baktun cycle end-date in 2012 A.D. was considered by the Maya to be a World Age shift. For my response see Appendix 7, "Response to Counter-Arguments."
2. See Appendix 1 for an introductory commentary on Hamlet's Mill
and its authors.
3. This was originally put forward by Badaway (1964) and Trimble
4. Bauval makes it clear that he doesn't believe the pyramids themselves were built that far back. Nevertheless, Bauval writes that the pyramids were designed to refer to that ancient era, as the primeval "First Time."
5. This "historical" process has an astronomical basis: precession. It would be misleading to call this astrology, because precession is an earth rhythm, rather than a causative influence impinging upon us from the stars. However, it's probably a little of both, because precession does change our relationship to the larger cosmos.
6. One might speculate here that early Mithraic astrologers, following the rediscovery of precession by Hipparchus in 127 B.C., projected forward to the alignment of the galaxy with the solstice sun.
The reason for suspecting this is the coincidence of the Christian year 2000 with the alignment. In this light, focus would be directed on the early Christian theologians who set in place the Christian calendar. However, the problem is that Christian dating is based upon the birth of Jesus, a supposedly historical event. This implies other scenarios which I have no space to address here, but at least will state:
1) Historical events (such as the birth of Jesus) do unfold in numerological resonance to the end-date alignment;
2) Church astrologers and theologians manipulated historical records and biblical documents so that the future astronomical alignment would correspond to a
Another angle: Researchers have identified a Saturn-Jupiter conjunction in 6 B.C. as the likely "sign in the heavens" that signalled the birth of the Messiah. As explained in Santillana and Dechend (1969) and Sullivan (1996), the trigons of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions were possibly used to track precession. Thus, the conjunction of 6 B.C. provides a connection between the "zero year" of the Christian calendar and a method for tracking precession.
7. See the Bibliography for complete source information.
8. Aveni (1981:161). "Tropical Archaeoastronomy."
9. See Appendix 6, "Caspar's Lesson." Regarding the scientific knowledge that the sun is "really" much larger than the moon (i.e., that Man is bigger than Woman), the fact that the development of this conceptual doctrine parallels the denial of the female (yin) principle in Western civilization is startling food for thought.
10. For a look at the bigger metaphysical picture, see Clow (1995). Terence McKenna's thoughts on the upcoming shift are central to his Timewave Zero theory (1993). Also see McKenna's Hyperborea website.
11. I've done a great deal of research along these lines, and developed a visionary cosmology called "The Tree of Life cosmology."
I would direct the interested reader to my books Mirror in the Sky (1991a) and Jaloj Kexoj and PHI-64 (1994c).